British Schools Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find information on British schools?
Education is a service provided by the county councils in England. Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire all have comprehensive Web sites that include a whole section on education in their area. This is a good place to start for general information.

What is the difference between a state school and an independent school?
State schools are free of charge and independent schools are fee-paying schools. An old term you may still hear for an independent school is a "public" school, which really is a contradiction in terms because only the minority attends fee-paying schools.

Will I have to pay to send my child to a church school?
If the church school is a state school, no fees are required. Voluntary-aided schools are run in partnership with the Roman Catholic Church and Church of England. The school governors decide which children can go to the school and how religion is taught.

At what age do children start school?
British children must begin full-time education at the start of the term after their 5th birthday. In Suffolk all children can get full-time education from the start of the term during which they become 5. For example, children born in March can start full-time school in January if their parents want them to.

What is a catchment area?
Most children attend the school in their local area. This school is called the catchment school. Every school serves an area of streets or villages, but sometimes this is different for church schools. Parents have a right to ask for a place at a different school. This is called a preferred school. However, it may not be possible to obtain a place if the preferred school is full.

When does the school year start and how is it divided up?
The school year starts at the beginning of September and is divided into three "terms" with holidays (vacations) of two weeks at Christmas and Easter and a six-week holiday in the summer. Each term is sub-divided into two "half-terms" by a week's vacations.

Do I have to register?
Registration is not the same here. We use the term enrollment. When the head teacher confirms that there is availability at the school, he or she will need pupil details. The information required will include a date of estimated rotation from overseas for the parent. This is required to help plan numbers related to future funding for the school. Should you take your child out of the school for any reason, notify the head teacher as soon as possible of the last day of attendance. In order to enroll your child at a British school, you will need to have a British address in the local area.

How will my child progress through school?
Teaching is based on the National Curriculum, which has a core of four subjects - English, math, science and information technology. Other subjects, such as languages, are introduced at different stages. Click here to see a chart showing what British School grade levels are equivalent to U.S. Schools.

Will my child get free transport to school?
Free bus transportation to and from school is not automatic. The head teacher may ask for a commitment from you as parents to ensure that your child is delivered to school and picked up from the school. Also, in England we do not have distinctive school buses. Drivers here are not required to stop behind a school bus, but are required to proceed with caution. It is essential that children are aware of the dangers of crossing the road when getting off a school bus.

Will my child have to wear a school uniform?
In British schools the child will usually be required to wear a uniform. The top (most often a sweatshirt) has the school logo on it and can often be purchased at the school. The bottom (pants - say "trousers" or "skirt") must be a certain colour but can be bought in any store. The uniform is worn most days, except on "non-uniform" days.